It was later in the evening and now dark. Risless had finished the conversation with her son and returned to her chambers. Trembling, she paced back and forth before Elder Liu found her.
“Did you argue with him again?” Elder Liu asked, seeing how troubled Risless looked.
“No, we didn’t argue. He teased me instead. His own mother. He teased me.”
Risless’s robes fluttered back and forth as she picked up the pace in her room, causing a slight gust of wind to come out. So many thoughts were going through her mind and she found it difficult to contain them all.
“I can’t believe he teased me like that! I fell for it! I had to pretend I was joking!”
“How did he tease you?” Elder Liu found it amusing that Risless was still like a little girl in some ways.
“He said he wanted to have children with me and I was excited!” Risless paused after saying that. “I was… excited…”
“So you want to do that with him after all.” Elder Liu had a smile on her face. “At least we know you’re willing, but the question is whether he’s willing. Maybe if you told him nicely, he’ll be willing in the future.”
“What? No! I meant! I was joking too! I didn’t mean it! It was all just to gauge how he would act back! Nothing like that crossed my mind. We are mother and son! A parent and a child do not have that relationship! What are you saying? You can’t be saying that I would want that, right? It’s impossible! The heavens won’t accept it! The other sects would band together and attack us all at once!”
“Very well, have a pleasant night.” Elder Liu walked out.
Risless was there, staring at the door. Elder Liu’s words seemed to make her more ashamed about her own thoughts. Thinking about Dong Chen and how he’s a man, she gave him a bath and saw him already, even as an adult. His body wasn’t bad, but they were still supposed to be mother and son… she mustn’t think of him that way.
What am I thinking about? I can’t think of my son this way. Even if he… but what if he… what if he wanted me?. That way? If he wants it, then I can do it, but it’s clear he doesn’t want it… but the curse could be lifted… no… I don’t know…
Risless paced around the rest of the night until morning when she finally calmed down. There were just too many things to think about concerning her son and too many emotions going all over the place.
When morning came, she went to give pointers to her personal disciples once more. The disciples listened to her every lesson and showed her deference and respect that she did not get from Dong Chen. The girls would bow whenever she spoke, they would use the proper title and honorifics and they never blamed her even if she made a mistake.
The difference between a Sect Master and a disciple was like heaven and earth. The difference between a Sect Master and a cultivator was even wider than that. Yet her Dong Chen was a mortal that teased her. It was difficult for her to wrap her head around all of it.
“Sect Master, thank you for your pointers today,” a young female disciple said.
“You have been improving by leaps and bounds,” Risless said. “I hope you will become a pillar of this Sect in the future. Not just you, but all of you who are my personal disciples.”
They all bowed to her and then went into seclusion to cultivate the rest of the day. Cultivation brought power, and power was what determined who ate and who starved. Disciples would sacrifice anything for those abilities which gave them what was needed to survive in such a cruel world.
Elder Liu was there once the lesson was over, came to Risless.
“Sect Master, Dong Chen has said he will go wherever you wish to take him today. He would prefer secluded places where he doesn’t have to look at the beautiful girls of the Sect.”
“He said that?” Risless wasn’t sure she heard right. “Wouldn’t a man his age want to see more beautiful women?”
“There were indications in the past that he might have preferred men instead before he will marry. Perhaps you should ask him why he doesn’t want to be seen. Go over to him now.”
Elder Liu left to complete the other duties she was left in charge with. A large sect needed constant monitoring and continual recruitment of talented individuals to run it. Promotions were always necessary when one reached a higher cultivation level, if there was an expansion or if situations came up that changed the flow of supplies.
Risless took several deep breaths. She felt embarrassed from last night, and she would once again have to see Dong Chen.
I hope he doesn’t tease me like that again.
Mom came to pick me up. I had accepted the arrangements, knowing that there was nothing I could do about the curse for now. Lifting the curse would be a task for another time when I’ve gathered more and more information.
The door opened and mom stood there, still wearing the mask that prevented men from lusting for her.
“Mom, thanks for coming. I’m sorry for teasing you yesterday.”
“No, I’m sorry for teasing you back. I might have gone overboard.”
“It’s my fault first,” I said. “I wanted to go somewhere away from the other disciples. Anywhere is fine as long as I don’t have to see the others from the Sect.”
Mom quietly stretched her hand to take me. “Son, I’m curious about why you don’t want to see the disciples from the sect. I remember there were rumors from your father saying you preferred men to women.”
“I don’t prefer men to women, I love beautiful women and almost every disciple from your Sect is someone I would consider myself lucky to marry,” I said. “I can’t however get married, so seeing beautiful women who have no relation to me makes my heart ache. Do you understand? I don’t enjoy seeing them and then thinking about them at night when I’m bored.”
I don’t enjoy having to take care of the piece of flesh the blood rushes to whenever I get those thoughts.
“Oh,” Mom said. “So you really don’t like looking at women you can’t have?”
“No, I don’t. Especially if it’s a beautiful woman, I want to have but can’t.”
Same reason I preferred looking at two-dimensional girls over three-dimensional ones. At least I know someone two dimensional didn’t exist. I didn’t want to line the pockets of models who would never be interested in me.
“That makes me happy,” Mom said. “Then you really don’t mind looking at mommy?”
“It’s not the same, also: your mask hides your face. You’re my mom, you’re not some woman I can only look at. You’re not a woman I can actually be with, so there is no stress talking to you or being around you.”
Why does Mom seem disappointed? I know yesterday was a joke, but… really? I mean… was it not a joke? I don’t think I want to explore this… I mean she hardly saw me as a child, so perhaps all those parental feelings didn’t quite take effect like they were supposed to.
“Let’s go son, I want to show you the view from above the Sect. I’ll hold on to you tight so even if we go very high, don’t be afraid.”
Mom took me in her arms, carrying me as she flew up. A small carpet seemed to come out of her ring, which held us in place as it raised itself in the air with me on it. We kept rising high into the sky until I could see the landscape as I did when I experienced flying in an airplane, only I could feel the wind in my face.
Mom was calm. She had no issue with the height. It was natural for her, but I felt myself hugging her tighter.
“Hug mommy tight if you’re afraid,” she said. “You can hug tighter, son. My body has been tempered through flames and many other elements to where it’s very difficult to injure me. Mommy won’t choke even if you used both your arms to squeeze her neck.”
I wanted to hyperventilate, but I forcefully calmed down my breathing. The height, the thinner air, and the bright sun above were difficult to all take in at once. I closed my eyes and breathed in and out for a minute. Controlling each breath became easier, and then I finally had normal breathing again.
“Son, you really are amazing,” Mom said. “Even though you’re not a cultivator, you still forced yourself to breathe correctly despite the stress. Mortals fear heights because they cannot fly, but you conquered your own fear and instinct.”